France is seeking to bring innovation to how the country predicts and handles defense issues, and one of the ways it aims to accomplish that is by hiring a “red team” of science fiction writers to envision future threat scenarios. The red team will comprise of 4-5 writers and engage in role play, among other techniques, to accomplish its mission. The work will be highly confidential and involve “scenarios of disruption,” according to a report on the matter by the Defence Innovation Agency.
The red team report comes on the heels of France’s announcement of its own space force creation. It will be located within the country’s air force and set to go into service in September 2020. The name will be the Space and Air force, and its primary mission looks to be protecting France’s satellites.
“The new spatial and military doctrine that has been proposed to me by the (defence) ministry, which I have approved, will allow us to ensure our defence of space,” French President Emmanuel Macron announced during a pre-Bastille Day reception with military officials. “We will reinforce our knowledge of the situation in space, we will better protect our satellites, including in an active manner.”
US President Donald Trump recently declared space a ‘war-fighting domain’ and subsequently directed the Pentagon to begin plans for a Space Force, a department that is intended to ultimately have a seat at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There are currently three versions of how the new organization will be formed (Department of Defense, House, Senate), and all have significant differences from one another that could create friction when trying to pass legislation to officially establish the force. Regardless of the outcome, with the US elevating the national security importance of the space environment, it’s not surprising to see other countries following suit.
I absolutely love this idea. How many times do we hear about science fiction writers of the past predicting our modern day situations? How many disasters have we seen happen that weren’t planned for because they weren’t anticipated?
In one of my college classes, I did a paper on the Khobar Towers terrorist attack in 1996. The building had been secured for an explosive capability that terror networks were assumed to have based on CIA intelligence estimates (200 lbs); however, when the attack happened, it was several orders of magnitude more powerful (5,000 pounds). While the proximity of the bomb to the building would have still caused significant damage even if it were smaller, it’s possible that different security measures may have been implemented had the imagined scenarios included more ways the terrorists could have increased their capabilities.
Obviously, France is looking beyond straightforward counter terrorism scenarios in hiring science fiction writers to help with national security, but I think Khobar Towers speaks to the constraints of bureaucracy in imagining, predicting, and preparing for responses to unknown threats. Assuming the French government really means imaginative scenarios, will an alien invasion be considered?
The French intelligence agencies aren’t likely going to be studying and tracking UFO activity to assess for threats, and even if they were, would they share what they know with France’s government officials? Depending on which conspiracy you believe, the answer is likely ‘no’ on that count. Someone involved in sci-fi will likely have a wider field of knowledge on developing technologies and theories in that realm than government bureaucrats even have time to learn about. Even better, by communicating those ideas to bureaucrats, all government entities could be on the same page about security.
I’m very curious to see what types of things the writers come up with, assuming anything is ever leaked or reported.